May, 10th 2017 | 5 min read

Introduction to woocommerce

By definition, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that turns the website into a functional e-commerce store. It’s also one of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the entire Internet.

ecommerce stats

Source: BuiltWith 

There is reason why that is so. Well, a number of reasons, which this post will effectively address for all of you out there just learning about Woocommerce. Below you'll find the list of different features and limitations of Woocommerce in order to get a complete picture of it. Let’s begin.

1. It's free

First and foremost, Woocommerce is free to download and install, just like WordPress. There are also no monthly fees as seen on other shopping cart solutions like Shopify, for instance, nor do you need any licenses and such - it’s free as the air you breathe.

 2. It’s tied to WordPress

Of course, you need a valid WordPress account to sign in and download it. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, it’ll take some time to know what’s what. Nothing scary, but it does take additional time to set up everything. Being that it’s just a WordPress plugin, it’s limited in terms of other aspects of your business, something we’ll cover later on.

3. It’s easy to setup

WooCommerce is rather easy to setup after you install it. There is some tinkering to be done (after all, it can’t be that easy), but WooCommerce has you covered with Guided Tour videos that do a great job of visually explaining the setup process. Those with an existing WordPress site don’t need to change their current website design as the plugin works with any design or theme. 

4. It’s open-source

Perhaps the biggest advantage and what makes WooCommerce stand out is the fact that the platform is open-source. Third-party developers are free to create extensions that allow a complete customization of the online store and a multitude of options. On its own, WooCommerce is packed with features that help launch and run an online store. Add in the variety of third-party themes and extensions from the WooCommerce website, as well as those from WordPress and you get a highly customizable online store in terms of look and functionality. 

Speaking of customization, the majority of themes and extensions can be added with no extra cost, but there are paid versions that provide more advanced options. Pricing varies and the large collection of available upgrades means e-sellers will likely find exactly what they need, albeit at an extra cost.

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5. You can customize it any way you want.

As a direct result of its open-sourceness, the versatility is essentially what sells WooCommerce and makes it so popular. Here is a list of some of the things you can sell through WooCommerce:

 

  • physical products;
  • digital products (software, photos, music, ebooks, etc);
  • services;
  • memberships and subscriptions;
  • sell and promote other people’s products as an affiliate.

Basically, anything. Once again, this is thanks to tons of customization options that allow your WordPress-powered online store to be exactly what you want it to be. As themes (the looks of the website) are all about the personal taste (although you can further tweak them by using built-in options like drop-down menus, widgets, and codes, if you possess that level of tech expertise), we feel extensions deserve a special mention. They directly contribute to website’s functionality by integrating various business apps and capabilities. WooCommerce divides extensions into multiple categories. In terms of functionality, you can choose between:

  • Marketing
  • Operation
  • Payment processors
  • Shipping
  • Subscriptions

The extensions are both free and paid version, going all the way up to $299 for some. Compared to some of the other popular e-commerce platforms available, especially the ones that use their own services exclusively or have limited choices, WooCommerce provides a much better streamlining of business operations and more control over how to manage an online store. That is why there are over 450 extensions available and counting but some of them have a hefty price tag.

6. It helps with social media

The plugin is rather handy for SEO aspect of your site. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), social media is very important for an online business. As it’s built on WordPress, there are several dedicated WooCommerce third-party plugins like Yoast WooCommerce SEO that greatly improve the sharing experience for social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. They will give you the means to promote your products on social media and connect with people easier while also cultivating an online presence. These are usually premium versions (like Yoast) so that might come at an additional expense.

Limitations

When all is said and done, WooCommerce is a useful shopping cart solution. However, it’s not without its faults. For all the things it does, it’s still a simple plugin. This means it takes care solely of the e-commerce part of your website while you need to set up the rest if that’s not enough for you. The necessary infrastructure is not part of the package, meaning things like web hosting, domain name, as well as setting up the WordPress account and website need to be taken care of by you. While this does grant you full control over the proceedings, it takes time and money before the store is fully operational, something full-featured e-commerce software provides from the start.

 

If you are starting from scratch and don’t have much WordPress knowledge, it might take some time to get the hang of it. It’s not terribly difficult, but being tied to WordPress also means that, at some point in the future when WordPress' capabilities no longer fulfill your needs, you will need to make a jump to a different platform. That means time and money as opposed to a full-featured e-commerce software on a non-WordPress website.

One more thing. The extensions, probably the best feature of WooCommerce, may not be enough long-term if you are aiming for free versions only. As your business evolves, you might find that the existing limited advanced capabilities of free versions require purchase of a paid version to fully complement your operations. In the end, this could turn out to be a more expensive solution as opposed to a full-featured e-commerce software. 


Conclusion

For a product-based online business selling domestically and/or internationally, there is no better place to make your blog into a fully functional online store. It offers both basic and advanced features to help launch, run and grow your e-commerce business. The plugin helps online sellers to completely tailor their sites to their needs through free and paid themes and extensions. WooCommerce is not perfect as you need to have a WordPress account and website in order for it to work. It might not be the best option in the long run due to its bond with WordPress and free extensions may not be a permanent solution but it is more than capable of growing your business as it is. Seeing as it’s free (for the most part), it doesn’t hurt to try. From there on, you’re on your own. 

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